A landlocked country in southern Africa, Swaziland, has significant problems. Nearly a third of the country's population lives in extreme poverty, and about as many are with H.I.V. infected, one of the world's highest prevalence rates for the virus. Life expectancy is low, around the 50th A recent drought and an infestation of armyworm, an invasive species, destroyed the crop.
The 1.4 million inhabitants of the kingdom could have been surprised on Thursday when King Mswati III Absolute Monarchs announced the news: The country will henceforth be known as eSwatini, the name of the Kingdom in the national language. (He means "land of the Swazis" in the Swazi or siSwati language.)
The king, who has been governing since 1
Many post-independence African countries "returned to their ancient, native names," The Associated Press quoted the king. "We will no longer be called Swaziland from today."
According to Reuters, Mswati argued that the name of the kingdom had long caused confusion. "Whenever we go abroad, people call us Switzerland," the king said, according to Reuters.
The king had used the name eSwatini in recent years, including in speeches to the parliament of his country, the General Assembly of the United Nations and the African Union. He said the kingdom returned to its original name before British colonization began in 1906.
Nyasaland became Malawi after gaining independence in 1964. Months later, Northern Rhodesia reached the nation as the new Republic of Zambia. In 1966 Bechuanaland was reborn as Botswana and Basutoland changed his name to Lesotho. Rhodesia, after a 14-year period of white minority rule that was not internationally recognized, became the new nation of Zimbabwe in 1980.
But some former British colonies in Africa – such as Uganda, Kenya and the Gambia – did not change their
Swaziland is a mountainous country slightly smaller than New Jersey and economically dependent on South Africa. For decades, Swazi men have worked in South African coal and gold mines.
Mswati inherited the kingdom from his father Sobhuza II, who ruled for 82 years until his death in 1982. (His mother served as regent, as Mswati was still a teenager and officially remains a common ruler of the kingdom.)
The king has parodied the demand for democratic reform during his three decades of domination. According to a constitution adopted in 2006, Swaziland is officially an absolute monarchy, although the king can no longer govern by decree. The constitution provides for independent justice and human rights, but the status of political parties officially banned in 1973 remains unclear. Parliamentary elections took place in 2008 and 2013 and are expected again in September.
Human rights observers have often criticized the kingdom for its lack of democracy and its suppression of disagreements. The king has also developed a reputation as a playboy, with a taste for luxury cars and overseas travel. A New York Times correspondent who visited in 2012 found that Swazis accepted the monarchical tradition but demanded more political openness.
Whether the name change will remain is another question. In 2016, Czech officials proposed the Czech Republic as the preferred short version of their country's name. The United Nations, the United States government and, in the digital age, Google Maps and Apple in particular, have stuck to it, but the name Czech Republic is widely used in English.